Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

December 31, 2007
Going forward

If "going forward" was the unofficial mantra of the Kings organization before, then it may as well be plastered on the team's jerseys now.
There's certainly no reason for them to look back at the trail of tears behind them, one that's littered with torn ligaments, strained groin muscles and floating fragments of mystery matter that affect various limbs. Three starters down for significant time is a bit unheard of. At today's practice, John Salmons got me wondering just how unheard of it is as he couldn't think of any similar scenario he'd experienced or witnessed in his six seasons. Not sure exactly how to quantify this scenario, but I may have to dig a bit deeper on that one.
Otherwise, the MIA roster was actually in action today, with Mike Bibby participating in his first full-contact practice and Kevin Martin doing quite a bit of work too. The duo was working out together long past their teammates, taking passes on perimeter cuts and shooting like everything was just fine.
Also, no more word on Ron Artest's consultation yet, but it's a foregone conclusion anyway. Asked yesterday if Artest would need a medical procedure to remove the bone chip and be out a few weeks, Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said it was "heading that direction."
It doesn't surprise me in the slighest that Artest wanted to take care of this problem ASAP. It is, obviously, a contract year for him, and no player welcomes the prospect of performing below peak level for the rest of the season as a precursor to his next contract (if he opts out). Speaking of which, I'm told by a reliable source that Miami remains very interested in Artest. The Heat are reportedly interested again in Golden State's Mickael Pietrus (read here). So just as was the case during the offseason, it seems the Heat are again deliberating between Artest and Pietrus as a means of saving their dreadful season. For the immediate future, I could see Artest having a far greater impact than Pietrus playing with Shaq and D-Wade.
Meanwhile, Kenny Thomas - who continues to simply do what Kings coach Reggie Theus asks of him but would certainly like being somewhere where he plays more than 12.6 minutes per game - could certainly be a part of any Mike Bibby/Artest deal as well, and the Heat's expiring contracts are certainly a solid starting point to any negotiations. That may be Thomas' way out, as Petrie hasn't pulled the trigger on any offers for that contract on its own in the last few years. All in all, these guys are going nowhere more than they're going forward right now. - Sam Amick

December 30, 2007
Artest out "a couple weeks," Theus says

Ron Artest won't play tonight or any other night in the near future, as Kings coach Reggie Theus said before Sunday's game that his small forward will likely have surgery to remove a fragment in his right elbow.
As Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie just noted, "When it rains it pours." And with three starters down now, it's certainly coming down. Petrie said Artest is headed for New York City (no, Knicks fans, not for that reason) for a medical consultation with a doctor who he has previously worked with. - Sam Amick

December 30, 2007
Artest says he won't play

Ron Artest said at shoot-a-round this morning that he doesn't expect to play tonight against Phoenix because of the bone chip in his right elbow.
That's not a good thing for the Kings in general, judging by what happened last time they faced the Suns without him. The immediate future remains unclear, too, as he said it tightened up on him and he's not sure when it will loosen up.
All of which isn't nearly as interesting as the other game I'm not sure Ron is ready to play: The small-ball game. Just one day after Kings coach Reggie Theus shared his views about a possible lineup that would include Beno Udrih at the point, Mike Bibby at the two, Kevin Martin at the three, Ron at the four and Mikki or Brad at the five, Artest was talking about how much he likes "big ball," in what was a not-so-subtle counter in philosophy.
Personally, I'm curious what the small lineup can do and know that Artest at the four is far more productive and dangerous than any other option Theus has at his disposal. It also gives him a way to minimize the disappearance factor of the Udrih, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia types by going unconventional. The victims, obviously, would likely be Moore and the other bigs in terms of minutes, but it's worth trying for a few games to see how it works.
Chances are,Theus started talking about this idea so long before his injured players actually return because he knows he has some convincing to do.
- Sam Amick

December 28, 2007
Artest out

Ron Artest - for those not already watching - is out tonight with a bone chip in his right elbow.
I'm guessing maybe a piece of some Celtics player's tooth got lodged in there from the last game, but the word is that the Kings small forward will likely play against Phoenix on Sunday. Francisco Garcia started in his place. - Sam Amick

December 28, 2007
Beach party?!

Greetings from pre-pre game at Arco Arena, where the Kings and Sixers haven't arrived yet but the Kings dancers certainly have.
They're prepping for tonight's festivities on the floor, and what a theme night this is going to be. It is, of all things, "Beach Party night."
Bless that creative marketing department, which has the dance team practicing its summertime grooves while donning sweats because, well, the heater in here hasn't fully kicked in and the temp outside is near freezing. And never mind the sniffling reporter typing courtside and sipping on the coffee as his only means of warming up on the inside.
Speaking of temperatures, I'm wondering if Mike Bibby or Kevin Martin might be a little hot under the collar after coach Reggie Theus put out word that their starting spots might not be waiting for them when they return from injury. Hopefully I can get a better feel this evening. Until then, it's all hula shirts and heavy coats inside this Wintery Summerland. And for what it's worth, Sixers forward Reggie Evans is the first player to take the floor. He's practicing his mid-range jumper, hitting more in the last minute than I can remember seeing him convert in his six seasons. - Sam Amick

December 27, 2007
Postgame musings

Ron Artest can be a funny dude sometimes, and Wednesday night definitely qualified.
So he walks into the locker room after the loss to the Celtics that was about as physical as games come in this modern day of touchy-feely officiating, looks at the media and says, "Man, what in the world could you guys want to ask about?"
I'm not even sure he was kidding, but it struck me as hysterical. There was plenty to talk about after this rock-em-sock-em matchup, with nothing nearly as interesting the aggressive way in which the Kings conducted their business.
And after Artest explained that he simply didn't like the way the Celtics were talking in the Kings' building, the similarity of his comments to those made by Francisco Garcia made me wonder if they had spoken of this topic beforehand.
"I was just trying to get the crowd into it," said Garcia, referring to his first quarter exchange with Kevin Garnett in which he basically played unfriendly pattycake with KG while tussling over the ball after the whistle had blown. "I donít like it when somebody just comes in here to our house like that. Weíve got to show that no matter what their record is weíve still got to play. I was ready. I was trying to show everybody I was ready and get some intensity going."

***

So in two meetings against the Kings, Garnett scores a combined 25 points on 12 of 23 shooting and the Celtics cruise to victory late in both games. All of which proves what Boston GM Danny Ainge was saying when we spoke for yesterday's Celtics piece: KG's selflessness is sometimes as vital as all his other incredible skills.
"Kevin just has a great emotional and physical energy," Ainge said. "And I think that his work ethic and his talent just gives confidence to the other players.
"And also his unselfishness, his willingness to do the little things to win. His teammates and coaches respect him because it's very clear that winning is all that matters to KG."
There is certainly no lack of confidence among Garnett's teammates, and the Kings may argue that some players have more than they should. For example, the buzz on the Kings bench was about Boston center Kendrick Perkins and how he suddenly talks more than ever now that he has three All-Stars around him. Perkins didn't have much to brag about in this one, contributing three points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes.
Allen appears to have sacrificed his numbers for the greater good as well.
"Some nights, I've started a game not even thinking I was going to score and not worrying about it," Allen said. "And that wasn't a big deal. Then there are nights when four or five times in a row you might get scoring opportunities and you take advantage of it. The ultimate objective for us here is to get wins."


***

I didn't quote Boston coach Doc Rivers in the Celtics piece, but he had some fascinating insight as to his role in attempting to get the most out of this talented bunch.
For starters, the team took two days completely off earlier this month (Dec. 9 and Dec. 10). I can't remember that happening in my three seasons covering the Kings, nor have I heard of it happening elsewhere. But as Rivers verified, it had everything to do with the fact that his stars aren't all that young (The Big Three has all turned the Big Three-O, with Allen the elder at 32) and he needs to think about the miles logged in the long haul.
Also, he is at the forefront of the mental approach that the Celtics haven't accomplished anything just yet.
"No matter what our record is, my job is to get the whole team to understand that we've accomplished zero," Rivers said. "We've won zero playoff games, gone through no adversity (before the recent two-day absence of an injured Ray Allen), and we're not good enough today to be the (NBA champion)."
Ainge said he has nothing but confidence in Rivers, who just last season was a fan favorite to be fired when the home games sometimes came with chants for his head.
"I have great faith in Doc keeping these guys in tune, making them continue to be alive and work and stay humble and continue to be coachable," Ainge said.

***

Rough night for Kings center Brad Miller, who missed his first six shots and finally hit a field goal with a dunk at the 10:43 mark of the third quarter.
Miller finished 2 of 11 from the field, and his seven points marked the first time he scored in single digits since a Dec. 8 loss at Denver (seven points). Miller had not shot below 40 percent in a game since hitting just 1 of 9 shots in a loss to Golden State on Nov. 28.
- Sam Amick

December 21, 2007
Sizing up the homestand

John Salmons is having visions of the Kings as a playoff team, which is significant mostly because he's not Ron Artest.
The Kings swingman said so after the Kings win at Milwaukee, nothing that if the Kings could steal a few wins on the road like they just did and continue to take care of business at home (where they're 8-4) then they could be playing well into April. Usually it's Artest making the playoff predictions, so this tells you something about this team's confidence level. And considering being .500 or above typically means you're in the playoffs, apparently most fans agree with John's assessment.

Here's a quick look at the upcoming four-game homestand...

Vs. Denver on Sunday - The Nuggets wrap up a two-game road trip (at Portland on Friday) that isn't long enough or scheduled in such a way for fatigue to be an issue. They just lost to a surging Portland team on Friday (the Blazers have won nine straight after starting 5-12), meaning tonight's matchup should be a good one. They've won four of their last six overall, including the 101-97 home win over the Kings in which they came back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit but faltered late.

Vs. Boston on Wednesday - Two days between off teams games (one of them being Christmas Day) should help the Kings prepare, although repeating the defense played on Kevin Garnett in the last matchup would be a good start in this one.
Forward Kenny Thomas was solid in his defense, helping hold KG to 11 points and six rebounds as the Kings played better than I expected in their 90-78 loss Dec. 12. And Celtics center Kendrick Perkins is back in the starting lineup, which could be a good thing for the Kings considering substitute big man Glen "Big Baby" Davis was even bigger than normal with 16 points and nine boards.
The Celtics - who lost their Eastern Conference heavyweight bout to Detroit 87-85 at home on Wednesday for just their third loss - will also have had two days off before facing the Kings. This game will be the first of a four-game West Coast swing for Boston.

Vs. Philadelphia on Dec. 28 - If the Kings could beat them on the road, then they should beat them at home.
The Sixers are 4-7 on the road, although they've won five of their last seven overall. By the time they get to Sacramento, Philly will be starting a 10-day, six-game road trip. Andre Iguodala is still someone in need of defensive attention, even if Gilbert Arenas doesn't think he's a star (scroll the link to read it, but Arenas basically says Andre is a No. 2 option who wants to be paid like a No. 1).

Vs. Phoenix on Dec. 30 - The Kings nearly pulled off the upset on Nov. 20 at Arco Arena, with only a few differences between then and now.
They had Kevin Martin and the Suns didn't have Raja Bell. Nonetheless, they have shown an ability to compete with anyone at home and the Suns aren't as invincible as they were then after losing four of their last six. - Sam Amick

December 19, 2007
No Moore...please

UPDATE: Read more in tomorrow's paper, but Mikki Moore apologized to the team this morning for making his comments on Tuesday night. According to Moore, he will likely be fined by the team. Kings coach Reggie Theus said the issue was handled and is over, calling Moore "a great teammate."

***

OK, so on the solitication of readers who weren't so keen on Mikki's Moore's postgame comments, I'm providing a bit of context that didn't come through on deadline.
First things first, writers don't write headlines. And since I'm the one who talked to Mikki after the game (when he was more than eager to get his message out), I'll go on record saying that he never - as the headline said - blamed the coaching staff for his "slump." And I'm not too sure three games is a slump, anyway. He blamed them for not involving him more in the offense last night - in that one game. He did, however, insinuate that he hadn't been very involved in the past few games, but noted that the finger situation with Beno Udrih was part of that. As for why the coach's (namely Reggie Theus) didn't have a chance to respond, this took place way past locker room time as the team was boarding the bus.
My take is that this all pretty transparent. Just as Udrih had a huge night against San Antonio in his first game against his former team, Moore surely wanted to do the same against the Nets. There were hard feelings there (read below), and those feelings clearly got the best of Mikki shortly after the game's end. I see it as an aberration, something Mikki may do on occasion when he's not sure anyone else is listening. In all, I don't see it as much of an issue. All in all, he is a tremendous team guy. - Sam Amick

December 19, 2007
Even more Moore (and Ron)

NEWARK, N.J. - Before Mikki Moore vented about his lack of involvement in the Kings win, he held court with reporters before the game while looking back at his one season in New Jersey.
Specifically, he was asked about the sequence of events that led him to sign with the Kings. The offer from Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie came after Moore was talking to Chicago and after Nets president Rod Thorn offered him a three-year, $10 million deal but demanded an answer within 30 minutes or else the offer be nullified.
"I went to Chicago early that morning, to sit down with (Bulls coach) Scott Skiles," Moore said. "He gave me his offer, then I got on the plane to go to Vegas to meet with Memphis, because they were out there playing the summer leagues. I got in my room at 6:30, I had a dinner at 7:30. I call my agent, (and he says) we got 30 minutes to make a decision. If you donít take it, (the Nets are) taking it off the table. I told him Iíve been working a long time, (so) I have to at least see what Iím worth. And thatís how it ended."
Moore was asked about his reaction at the time.
"It hurt," he continued. "It hurt. It hurt bad, but itís business. Iíve never been in that situation before, and I wasnít used to it. So I sit on the phone with my mom and the rest of my family. They said have faith in myself and the Lord. The Lord has guided me this far. If they take it off the table, itíll come from somewhere else."
The Kings' offer came right after Moore met with Memphis.
"I flew home," he said. "I had both of my daughters with me. I had a brand new old English bulldog. Iím in the backyard cooking out and (his agent Mark) Bartelstein calls and says (the Kings) are offering ($17.3 million). Will you take it? I just dropped the phone."
Moore spent some time in the Nets locker room before the Kings' win, catching up with his old teammates.
"They asked me (about his) family, regular converation," he said. "Then we sit down and we gave the eye Ė the eye contact like, Ďwhoa, itís rough over there (with the Kings). Itís rough over here (with the Nets).í But we never spoke on it.
"Like I said, itís a growing thing with our team. Weíre trying to change the culture. Weíre trying to play defense. We never played defense in Sac."
Moore also had words of praise for point guard Mike Bibby, who he said he expects back in January from his left thumb surgery.
"Iím excited to get him back on the floor, because heís the same caliber of (Nets point guard and eight-time All-Star) Jason Kidd," Moore said. "And thatíll change a lot for me."
He was asked if he truly considered Bibby and Kidd equals.
"I have confidence in Mike," he said. "But theyíre both top point guards in the league. J-Kidd has a different game than him, but I think theyíre both the same caliber."

***

RON-RON ROUNDTABLE

Ron Artest can't get anywhere near New York without being trailed by the local media, and Tuesday was no different. Before the Kings game, the small forward and Queensbridge native was engaging and intriguing in his interview with a small group.

Among the highlights...

Are you going to opt out this summer and become a free agent?

"It just depends on what my agent (Mark Stevens) wants to do, (it depends) on everything. Thereís so many things that you have to take into consideration. From the (Kings) season, to the teams (that he may be able to sign with). Itís definitely ultimately my choice, but you have to take advice.
"Iím not going to worry about somewhere else when I like to play this leadership role (with the Kings). Why give up the leadership role? I feel good with the team, playing the lead role and the team role."

On regretting his 2005 trade demand from Indiana and the maturing process that's taught him the value of patience...

"It shows a weak character if you always try to go for the easy way out when things are not going your way and you just say, ĎHey I want out.í Thatís the easy way out. I like doing things the hard way. You appreciate it more. Like weíre losing right now, we've got our team discombobulated (with injuries) and everything. But when we win, it makes it that much better, rather than saying I want out.
"We had a horrible season last year. Anybody can say, ĎYeah I want to be traded. Please let me be out.í...Iím going to play where Iím at. I learned that the hard way. I want to be a competitor, compete against the best. To do that, you have to start somewhere."

Is that how you think all the time now, or is that mindset still tested often?

"All the time. It does (test you), definitely. Sometimes it slips your mind when your emotions are running high, and you're in the mix of the season. Sometimes you react and you have to step back and think. It does catch you."

On his earlier years...

"I was just so young and I had a big ego. Rather than just try to fit in with a team, I tried to take over. I tried to be something that I wasnít.
Now Iíd rather just fit in and do what Iíve got to do and play my part, whatever part that is, and just fit in, rather than just try to be on top of everything."
- Sam Amick

December 17, 2007
More Moore

If today's Mikki Moore piece just wasn't enough, there's Moore.

NEW YORK - When Kings forward Mikki Moore talked about the upcoming season and his individual goals in training camp, he noted the importance of consistency.
He's not there yet, with his performances bouncing up and down as much as those braids of his as he runs the floor. Exhibit A is the last four games, with Moore scoring in single digits in three of those games (for a combined 17 points) and busting out with a career-high tying 24 points in the other game (win over Philly on Friday).
Nonetheless, he has certainly progressed from the early season struggles, alternating between making a huge impact on the Kings play and disappearing when the system that sometimes serves him well breaks down. Kings coach Reggie Theus has changed how he uses Moore, running him mainly off of pick and rolls rather than using him as a traditional post presence like he did early this season.
"In some ways, I think (his improvement) is kind of a two-fold thing," Theus said. "I think Mikki put a lot of pressure on himself early, but I also think that I found a way to play that works for him.
"Brad (Miller) and Ron (Artest) are the only two guys on our team who have been primary guys in their careers. So all of a sudden, instead of playing off of people, you say, ĎHere, get it done (to players like Moore)í and theyíve never done that before.
Theus said a conversation he had with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie earlier this season helped Moore's cause, as did the addition of point guard Beno Udrih.
"I remember sitting down with Geoff talking to him about Mikki and watching some tape with him and really, kind of simultaneously, we were thinking the same thing in terms of what was best for Mikki," Theus said. "Watching those tapes, I realized that Mikki is a great roll guy (off of pick and rolls), so that played right into Beno (Udrih's skills), so thatís where we came up with the offensive set that puts Brad in the corner and opens up the floor.
"He was just getting different touches. The game changes when you put him in different spots. Weíve been able to find a way for him to play and put him in a place where I think heís comfortable now."
As for Moore, he's adamant that he won't be letting up just because his three-year, $17 million deal ($12 million guaranteed) is inked. In fact, he has the plan all plotted out.
"(The partially guaranteed third year) is just to prove to (the Kings) that Iím not going to be satisfied coming into that last year (of the contract)," Moore said during the preseason before he became the starter. "This year is to prove that Iím worth the contract and to get this team to the playoffs. The second year is try to get some All-Star votes and solidify my starting role. That third year is to show Iíve still got it in me."
And lastly, Udrih says he's enjoyed playing with Moore.
"Mikki, with all of the guys, is great," Udrih said. "Heís a great guy, and we are a good team wtih him....Mikkiís not a selfish player. When I pass to him, heís going to go up aggressive. Heís long. He can dunk the ball, but if he sees somebody open heís going to pass to them. Itís great playing with him, and heís a great teammate, a good player.
"As long as weíre going to use him as we did (in Friday's win at Philadelphia) and in the first half (against Washington on Saturday), I donít think weíre going to have any problems. We can match up with any team."

***

NYC UPDATE

The perfect day was not to be.
I wound up watching the Knicks game on TV, which isn't anywhere close to the same thing as being there to soak up all the soap opera material inside Madison Square Garden. Kings practice went a bit late, then it was off to Ron Artest's charity event in Queens that was delightful in every way. Well, almost every way.
Driving the 19 miles from downtown to the Jamaica neighborhood took more than an hour, and it was the worst kind of driving. Anyhow, that delay and the one on the way back meant no Knicks game for me. As it turns out, Artest - who had planned on seeing the Pacers and Knicks play as well - didn't make it either.
It was an unorthodox choice by Theus to practice in the home of the Knicks when his team is in town to play the Nets. Theus, though, said he was going for a more authentic surrounding rather than heading for an athletic club or even going all the way to East Rutherford, N.J. (the team is staying in New York City).
"I donít think the floor (at clubs) is regulation, for one," Theus said. "And I just think itís more private, not as much going on. An opportunity to get in this building never hurts. - Sam Amick

December 16, 2007
Odds and ends from the road

It'll be one of those long-but-good days tomorrow (today in this time zone), and I'm hoping there are no hitches in the plan of scheduled events for one reason alone: I've got to get to the Garden.
There's the train ride from DC to New York in the morning, the hotel check-in and quick drive to Kings practice, squeezing time for writing in there somewhere and - hopefully - heading to the Knicks-Pacers game at the ol' MSG on Monday night. It's one of those things that is worth doing on any day, but with the ridiculous amount of drama coming out of Knicks Land this season it's a definite must-see. In a car-crash sort of way, of course.
The subplot to all the well-known storylines is what that world has become for those who cover the team, an existence magnificentally captured by John Koblin of the New York Observer. It's a must-read.

***

Speaking of must-reads, Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal and Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer have teamed up on a LeBron James booked dubbed "The Franchise" that was released earlier this month.
It's up to date through the NBA Finals last season, and insiders tell me it's incredibly well reported. And, no, the insiders aren't the writers themselves but some of the folks they write about. It's far from a basketball-only book, with the business history of this one-man corporation as fascinating as what he's done on the floor. You can read the first of five excerpts here and go back as they release the rest.
The writer combination is a good one. Windhorst is the Cavs beat writer, having covered James since high school and followed him all through his rise. Pluto, a columnist, is such a well-respected vet he has his own Wikipedia file. Ironically, James and his Cavaliers will be at the Garden Tuesday while the Kings are facinng the Nets. The Kings will see King James on Jan. 4 in Cleveland. For a much shorter version of James' life, check his latest Nike commercial that just happened to play on TV while I was typing.

***

I still say someone should've put Brad Miller's dunk from Saturday's loss at Washington on YouTube. Alas, guard Dahntay Jones was the one winning the top play on SportsCenter and getting immortalized on the Internet.

December 14, 2007
Not the Princeton offense, but not bad either

PHILADELPHIA - This being an East Coast affair, the question wasn't a total surprise.
Before the Kings' first road win on Friday night, a local reporter asked coach Reggie Theus if any of his offense has ties to the legendary Pete Carril Princeton offense that was utilized by Rick Adelman during the Kings glory days.
"None," Theus quickly responded. "I canít put myself in the same category with the great one, but itís just playing basketball. Itís not brain surgery. You cut to the open spot, you look to the open man. If the (defender) turns his head, you slip behind him. Itís the way you learn to play since you were a kid. Nothing should change. Itís amazing to me how sometimes itís so hard to get guys to understand that."
By the time the Kings had downed the Sixers, the words would only seem truer. To quote one-time Kings coaching candidate Larry Brown, they did things "the right way" against Philly. For starters, I lost count of the times when the wingmen almost pulled the trigger on long jumpers only to keep working the possesion. They finished with 62 points in the paint to the Sixers' 46.
And, of course, it certainly helped that the one player gunning from the outside (Brad Miller) was on target as he hit all five of his elbow-area jumpers and one of two threes. Thus, cuts to the hoop came with less resistance as the Sixers were coming out on Miller. And while Ron Artest took a season-low seven shots, he spent much more of the outing camped out down low as part of a session in spacing that certainly pleased Theus.
"The difference is we worked on the spacing and those cuts today at shooting practice, talked about them after the game in Boston," Theus said. "I told them, said, ĎHey listen, 30, 40, or 50 percent of our offense is Ron with the ball in the post. So if thatís going to be the case, then we have to find a way to play.
"I thought Ron gave it up extremely well tonight. Brad made some great passes. And we really just moved our bodies to the open spots. So many times, we elect to stand. And itís not the way I coach. Itís not what weíve done since Day One. Itís something that we just have to keep getting better at."
Forward Mikki Moore, who spent the evening not only dunking seven times but yelling loud enough when he did it to have his voice amplified by the backboard speaker, noted the improvement as well.
"Brad Miller's a great passer, and Ron was getting double-teamed in the post," Moore said. "And when Ron swung it up to Brad, if he didnít have the jumpshot he found me. Itís just playing good basketball. Before, we were forcing things. Tonight my teammates made me have a good game like this."
Moore noted the third quarter play of point guard Beno Udrih as well.
"He came out the second half and set the tone," he said. "He came off the pick and roll very aggressive, opened up a lot of things for us. He didnít come off trying to see who was open and play with the ball a little bit. He came off straight - smashmouth basketball coming straight to the basket at you and thatís what we have to do."

***

REMEMBERING A FOND FAREWELL

The presence of Chuck Person was expected.
After all, his Indiana Pacers were scheduled to play Philadelphia on April 17, 1987 at the old arena just across the street from the current Wachovia Center. But when Person saw legendary soul singer Patti Labelle in the building to perform the national anthem, he knew something special was going on.
The Kings assistant and longtime Pacers player recanted his memories of being on hand for Julius ďDr. JĒ Ervingís regular season home finale near the end of his Hall of Fame career. The festivities could do nothing to change the outcome, with Indiana winning 115-111. Ervingís true goodbye at home came with a win on May 1, 1987, when the Sixers downed Milwaukee in Game Four of a first round playoff series they would lose in five games.

***
TROUBLE IN PARADISE

The line of the night belonged to Theus, who was asked before the game if his players remained loose despite the struggles on the road.
"We need to win a game," he said. "The pressure is on. This isn't Club Med."
- Sam Amick

December 14, 2007
A sad sight

PHILADELPHIA - There's something to be said for finding peace inside an NBA arena.
I've felt like the league needs to tone down its ear-blasting act for some time, and I'm convinced that I'll eventually lose a good amount of my hearing because of the incessant music and unhealthy decibel levels around the league. But peace is one thing. Solitude is another.
It's almost lonely inside this Wachovia Center, where the Sixers entered tonight's game ranked 29th in the league in attendance by averaging 12,224 per game. The unique element, though, is that this arena can hold 21,600 fans, creating a major cavernous effect considering the place seems about 30 percent full. The Kings, by comparison, entered play ranked 26th (13,503) in home attendance at Arco Arena (capacity 17,317). But in terms of atmosphere and excitement, it's not even close.
The silence is deafening. You can actually heard the sound of sneakers on the hardwood, even from my press row seat (where I have no one sitting on either side of me) that is a bit farther back than normal and in the corner as opposed to halfcourt. You can hear the individual comments from fans, too.
"You will not make that shot!" one guy just yelled to Brad Miller as he took a free throw early in the first quarter.
Just before the quarter ended with the Kings down 28-24, Mikki Moore screamed as he dunked and the folks up near the ceiling could probably hear it.
There are signs on both sides of the top row that must be at least 200 feet in length, both of them reading "Welcome to Comcast Country." That's just about right, since apparently everyone in Philly watches these games on TV rather than actually come.

UPDATE: I've heard of snoozer games, but are you kidding me? Someone is asleep on press row. I repeat (and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest), a member of the media is completely asleep. Arms crossed, head back, mouth so wide open Kyle Korver could probably bury a three in his throat from the floor! Priceless.

***

There was a hilarious case of mistaken identity before the game, and I was the one making the mistake. And while I swore Jerry Reynolds to secrecy, I figured I'd poke fun at myself anyway.
So I walked by Philly native John Salmons chatting on the bench with a player I thought was Philadelphia forward Louis Amundson. I should know Amundson's look, having covered him when he was in Kings training camp last season. Nonetheless, I glanced at the Sixers player and then sat next to Reynolds on the bench and said, "Is it just me, or did Louis Amundson get some plastic surgery done?" Admittedly, I wasn't really kidding.
Before Reynolds could correct me, I finally caught up. Ah, yes, it's Amundson's long-lost twin, Kyle Korver. Wow.
For the record, Amundson is on the top and Korver below...
Amundson.jpg
Korver.jpg

***

WEBBER IN SAC

Former Kings forward Chris Webber will be at his Center Court restaurant in Natomas on Saturday for a charity holiday event.
Webber, who remains a free agent, will be collecting new and unwrapped presents for the Sacramento Children's Home at 3 pm for those who want to stop by. And while that's the only day Webber will be there, you can drop off toys or items until Dec. 23.
- Sam Amick

December 13, 2007
Almost out of Boston...maybe

BOSTON - Wireless Internet connections come in handy for all sorts of reasons in the writing world, from breaking news in ASAP fashion to filing stories without having to worry about finding a phone line.
But this is a new one for me, a selfish endeavor, really, meant as much to satisfy my own boredom as it is to - maybe, just maybe - entertain the loyal few. I'm sitting in Row 16, Seat F of a plane in Boston that hasn't moved toward Philadelphia in nearly two hours because the "wintery mix," as our old friend Wyc dubbed it, has turned into a full-fledged snowstorm. And if you've ever wondered what it's like to be shoved inside a cotton pillow, I could tell you.
The locals tell me they fly in these conditions all the time, and so I'll trust them. But I have never done so personally, nor does it seem feasible as I stare out at some three feet of snow covering the runway. The guy inside the crane-operated de-icing machine has been working feverishly for some time now, trying to get all the snow off before the new layer forms.
Anyhow, as for the Kings. Yes, the Kings. That's why we're here. They missed out on practicing today because of the weather. The original plan was to practice this morning in Boston before departing, but they took off early so as to avoid the sort of mess I'm in. The whole hectic situation meant they didn't practice on the other end, either.
So it's off to Philadelphia without preparation, and maybe coach Reggie Theus will ask Kenny Thomas and John Salmons what to expect from the 76ers. They are the last two remaining Kings with any history in the city of Brotherly Love, although only Salmons has real love for the city. He is from there, recently built a house there, and speaks only favorably about his native land. Thomas, on the other hand, doens't appear to be a fan.
As for a quick comment on last night's game, the Kings played better than I expected and really took the Celtics out of their gameplan. They slowed the tempo, frustrated Kevin Garnett, and nearly did enough to make it interesting until the end. I thought the youth of the group that started the fourth quarter really showed through, and this armchair quarterback, err, point guard, would've rather seen the starters out there to stave off what you had to know was a Celtics team about to awake. OK, gotta run here. I'm hearing we may actually head for the frozen skies. - Sam Amick

December 11, 2007
Back on the beat in Boston

BOSTON - When the Kings touched down in Boston on Tuesday night, they were greeted with what the locals have dubbed "a wintery mix."
That's the politically correct term for the sleet and snow combination that has left the Beantown streets slushy, or so said Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck in a Monday interview for the Dec. 26 piece on the Big Three. There was plenty of old-fashioned snow outside the city limits, though, as I took a fascinating drive to the team's practice facility that is nearly 20 miles outside of Boston in Waltham, Mass. For anyone who remembers the movie "Cobb" with Tommy Lee Jones playing the grumpy ballplaying legend, the trip through icy hills and windy roads reminded me of the treacherous trail taken by Cobb's handpicked writer Al Stump (played by Robert Wuhl) on his way to Cobb's estate.
Thankfully, no one shot at me (like Cobb did Stump) once I arrived. It was quite a scene, though, with some 30 media members on hand who were eager for soundbites since coach Doc Rivers had given his team the previous two days off. Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen assured me the media contingent had grown significantly from last season - no surprise since these guys are playing better than even they could have dreamed so far.
Celtics.jpg
And if the Kings thought they could get overlooked by the Celtics because of their 0-8 road record, there was much talk from Gang Green of why their next opponent remain dangerous. There were compliments about Ron Artest from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, mentions of Brad Miller's All-Star resume and how they remain a competitive lot even with the recent injury to Kevin Martin.
"Their scoring really hasnít gone down at all," Rivers said. "Theyíre still scoring points and winning games. They have a nice system. The guys understand their system and other guys are picking it up.
"Weíre not overlooking anybody. Weíve been pretty good with that. (But) we donít really concern ourselves a lot with the other team as much as we concern ourselves with ourselves and (focus) on getting better."
***
A few quick hits...
* Mike Bibby (torn ligament, left thumb) did not make the trip, as he is getting rehab on his left hand back in Sacramento. He had his cast taken off last week and is trying to regain strength. Martin did make the trip.
* Just to clarify, the waiving of rookie center Darryl Watkins on Monday that coincided with the signing of fourth-year swingman Dahntay Jones wasn't necessary in terms of numbers. The Kings currently have 14 players on their roster, one shy of the league limit of 15. If nothing else, Jones shows in this clip that he certainly helps the Kings' overall athleticism.
- Sam Amick

December 9, 2007
A break from the beat in Beantown

BOSTON - It came down to the last second, with the outcome decided only because officials made a certain call that led to the harrowing finish.
Weíre not talking about the Kingsí close loss at Denver on Saturday, but my experience en route to Boston this afternoon. As for why Iím headed that way when the Kings donít play there until Wednesday, Iím putting together a Celtics piece to be published the day after Christmas Ė hence the temporary reshuffling of personnel on Kings coverage for these few days. Roles will resume on Tuesday.
Anyway, so the Sacramento to Phoenix leg was a bit delayed, and it seemed as if the rare cloudy weather in Arizona may have kept us in the air a bit longer as well. Upon landing, the race began as I tore off on a full-fledged sprint to the Beantown-bound flight that, of course, seemed at least a mile away. I barely made it to the terminal in time, with the US Airways rep about to shut the door when I frantically arrived.
If the Kings thought training camp was hard, try this: Wear jeans and a long-sleeved, winter-worthy shirt, an undershirt and a long wool jacket (itís chilly in Boston, you know), throw a 30-pound workbag on your back and another mini-bag of in-flight entertainment to boot, then pretend youíre Carl Lewis. It was a bronze-medal performance, at least.
***
That was some finish to the Kings-Nuggets game on Saturday.
And while I know Francisco Garcia was fouled on the three-attempt that couldíve won the game, the thing that stuck with me even more was why Ron Artest didnít shoot the ball in the paint when he had it with about three seconds left. That was the first time all night when I actually wanted Ė for a brief moment Ė to be in Denver to ask him rather than sitting on my couch spending rare time at home (days off on the beat donít come often).
Otherwise, it was another heartbreaker for this team and a continuation of the road woes. Itís hard not to feel sorry for these guys, if only because theyíve had so little to do with their own fate (save for Artest and his seven-game suspension which, of course, was by his own doing).
Not that it needs rehashing, but the losses of Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin donít even begin to tell the story. The situation with Artestís daughter adds an emotionally-draining element to his current existence that only Ron knows the significance of. Then youíve got the Justin Williams saga, the Spencer Hawes surgery that took a month away from the rookie center, and the Shareef Abdur-Rahim situation. All in all, Iím impressed theyíve competed like they have.
The qualifier to all of this, though, is that things would be much worse had Geoff Petrie not signed Beno Udrih. While the first seven games would have been easier with Artest, it was crystal clear that no combination of Orien Greene, Francisco Garcia, Quincy Douby, or even John Salmons at the point was going to produce anything but horrendous basketball.
And speaking of Greene, Iíve been meaning to mention for a while that he landed with a team in New Zealand a while back after being waived by the Kings after just six games. - Sam Amick

December 7, 2007
Abdur-Rahim has season-ending surgery

Kings forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery today at the UC Davis Medical Center to remove bone spurs and joint lining from his right knee, the Kings announced on Friday.
The procedure was performed by Dr. Richard Marder, and it was the second time since June Abdur-Rahim has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Abdur-Rahim's recovery from the first procedure was never complete, as he missed the early part of October training camp and returned to action late in the preseason. But while Kings coach Reggie Theus gave Abdur-Rahim only limited playing time in the first few games, it became apparent quickly that the knee was not fully healed. Abdur-Rahim experienced swelling in the knee numerous time, and the 12-year veteran is believed to have had it looked at by at least three doctors.
ďThis has been personally and emotionally frustrating not being able to help my teammates,Ē Abdur-Rahim said by phone. ďHowever, we all have different challenges in life and this one is mine. God willing I can find a way to still contribute and help my teammates while I work to get healthy.Ē - Sam Amick

December 6, 2007
Martin MRI confirms prognosis; Salmons to start

Kevin Martin's MRI taken today confirmed the right groin strain, and the four to six week window of recovery still seems to apply.
Before the MRI was taken, the prognosis given by the Kings of four to six weeks even surprised coach Reggie Theus, who hadn't been told the official word until he was addressing the media on Wednesday. He seemed surprised, as his past experiences with the injury (including his own) had led him to believe strained groins were in the 10 day to two or three week range. What's more, as I pointed out in today's piece, Bonzi Wells had a partial tear in his groin a few years back and his original prognosis was three to four weeks. Martin, who joked on Thursday that this was "Depression Day No. 2" in his new hoops existence, said he will take his time with the recovery so as not to suffer the same fate as Wells.
As for who takes the spot, Theus announced on Thursday that it would be swingman John Salmons, proving that he must have checked with our highly-educated readers before making his decision.
***
For any Kings fans feeling nostalgic over the loss of Martin and looking to take a trip down memory lane, I'm here for ya. - Sam Amick

December 5, 2007
Theus undecided on Martin's replacement

After attending Wednesday's Kings practice, the four to six week window for Kevin Martin's return remains the same after he strained his right groin on Tuesday night against Utah.
Coach Reggie Theus says he hasn't decided yet whether to start Francisco Garcia or John Salmons in Martin's place. A magnetic resonance imaging exam has not yet taken place, but is expected to be performed in the next few days. - Sam Amick

December 4, 2007
Martin out 4-6 weeks

Enjoy this win over Utah Kings fans, but there's bad news that comes with it.
Shooting guard Kevin Martin, who left the game after the third quarter with a strained right groin, is expected to miss four to six weeks.
Read how it happened here...

***
SHAMELESS PLUG TIME...
There is some fine multimedia work being done by our photographers and the latest slideshow/audio package done by Carl Costas is worth checking out. Click here for that.
To bookmark the Kings page which has access to all the archived multimedia packages, go here.- Sam Amick

December 4, 2007
Rookie on the rise

I knew he was a bright guy early, as in two days into training camp when Spencer Hawes was dropping concepts like Laissez Faire in the course of casual conversation.

Hawes continues to show that he's the heady sort, including a chat we had about the marketing aspect of his new career and how deliberate he plans to be when it comes to shaping his own image.
"Every time you get to do an appearance, you have to look at it like youíre investing in yourself, like youíre investing in your own image, and thatís a business in and of itself," said Hawes, who has a shoe deal with Adidas. "Now that youíre a professional athlete, youíre your own business, your own entity. Every day youíre trying to build that and make it more marketable, make it more successful on and off the court."
Of course, he's been doing that just fine on the court. He's embracing coach Reggie Theus' request to defend and rebound, feeling more confident every time out.
"Iím just trying to keep working, keep doing the extra stuff and keep making progress from day to day," he said. "I think Iím doing a pretty good job. Iíve never really been considered a defensive player, but I think I hold my own on that end."
As for the knee that was scoped in early October, here's the latest report from the young man himself.
"I think itís just a question of me trying to get back to 100 percent and integrate myself back in the team and get in the flow," he said. ""I think Iím getting there. Every day (the left knee) feels better. Some days will be a step back. Itís to the point now where Iím not thinking about it anymore. When I jump, I donít have to worry about it. I donít feel it when I jump.
"I think (my explosion) is coming back. I think if you watch, thatís usually the last thing to come back and it feels pretty good."
***
An interesting read from the Seattle PI on hoops life at the University of Washington without Spencer Hawes.
***
As a final note, Hawes did a nice job against Houston's Yao Ming on Saturday, but I wish we had a picture of them side by side. Not only is 7-foot-6 a long ways from Hawes' 7 feet of lenght, but the sheer girth of Yao never ceases to amaze me. As Hawes said, "one of his calves is like both of mine." You'll have to settle for this picture, which makes the Hulkish Ron Artest look like a Keebler Elf.

Yao
Photo by the Bee's Randy Pench.
- Sam Amick


December 3, 2007
Day by day for Diamond

Day by day used to be a medical reference in Ron Artest's world, something PR people came up with when a player was hurt and the future was unclear. And in that sense, that's exactly where Artest and his family are at right now, trying to get their 4-year-old daughter, Diamond, all the right treatment for her cancer and hoping for a quick recovery.
As his unfortunate experience has reminded so many how the game of life can be so much tougher than any basketball game, I thought I'd share a picture of Diamond with her dad from a few years back. She was 2 at the time, and the picture was published by USA Today for a piece they published on Artest.

Artest.jpg

There will be more from Artest in Tuesday's Bee, as he discussed his season at length in the Sunday interview and reiterated his desire to remain in Sacramento for years to come. Artest has an option in his contract this coming offseason that allows him to become a free agent. Yet as he knows, whether he's traded or not before then is the Kings' decision - not his.

December 2, 2007
The censoring of Rick Adelman

A disclaimer at the outset: I didn't watch last night's game against Houston and former Kings coach Rick Adelman on television, nor did I listen to it on the radio.
But judging from what I was told at the game and the immediate fan feedback this morning, the conclusion seems clear: Rick Adelman wasn't there.
At least that's what the Maloofs wanted you to think. There was a clear directive sent to all in-house media to minimize speaking about Adelman as anything but the opposing coach (I touched on it in today's game story). No acknowledgement of his eight seasons of success, no pregame interviews on TV or radio to discuss the old days, and certainly no Maloofs on hand (they gave their seats away for this one). Fans tell me they could hardly catch a glimpse of Adelman on TV, with his standing ovation not being aired and the style clearly contrasting a Golden State game on Wednesday in which Don Nelson was frequently shown.
And to be clear, this decision was coming from the same ownership that decided not to re-sign Adelman after the 2005-06 season, with the basketball side of the Kings operation more than happy to acknowledge Adelman for his time in Sacramento. Anyone still wondering if the Maloofs still harbor the same hard feelings that had so much to do with their decision to let Adelman go? Didn't think so.

December 2, 2007
Q&A time (and it's about time;)

Question: Are you perhaps alluding to a Shareef Abdur-Rahim deal in the works (with this post), with his on-again/off-again activity with the Kings in your latest blog post? Is there some interest around the league for a guy like him. I'd imagine so since post offense is a much needed skill set for so many clubs. I see Philly, Charlotte, Chicago, and even Orlando still in need and looking for help at the 5 there. Ė Jerrel Mills, Louisville, Kentucky

Answer: Youíre right that post players are a hot commodity, though Shareefís first priority is to get healthy enough to earn some playing time from his current team. Beyond that, he could absolutely be dealt this week or sometime between then and the February trade deadline. His health continues to be an issue of debate in the Kingsí camp and beyond, with his recent trip to Los Angeles for another opinion dubbed ďanotherĒ because it was not a second opinion. After recovering so slowly from the arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in June, heís had the knee looked at more than twice in assessing whether to continue the rehab to full recovery or perhaps another ďclean-upĒ medical procedure.

Question: In his first "significant" minutes this season (15 minutes against Phoenix on Nov. 21), Justin William did a fine job rebounding (10 boards and 6 points). The next game he didnít play. Is he hurt? Is there something Coach Theus does not like about those numbers? Ė Chris Campbell, Salzburg, Austria

Answer: The situation is about as transparent as it seems. Theus just isnít looking for Williams to be in the rotation right now, especially since the rebounding has improved recently even without him playing. On the flip side, rookie center Spencer Hawes has been told he wonít play much unless heís helping defensively andÖrebounding! He did plenty of that on Saturday against Houston, grabbing 10 rebounds in 14 minutes.

Question: Probably the same as many others want to know. K-Mart (Kevin Martin) has regressed steadily lately to last night when he was benched in the late 4th quarter (on Nov. 26 against San Antonio). What is the real problem here? Did Theus make an egregious mistake in not hiring Coachie (former Kings assistant and Princeton coaching legend Pete Carril? Ė Richard Colby, Yuba City, CA

Answer: Well, I wondered during the offseason if Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie might recommend Coachie for an assistant job. While it only couldíve helped Martin Ė who he mentored so wonderfully during his first two seasons Ė Martin has shown the hoops IQ and work etchic on his own to eventually learn from mistakes that are holding him back and become better from it. Exhibit A was on Saturday night, when Martin Ė who broke out of the slump against Golden State on Wednesday Ė fixed one of his recent problems by showing the sort of offensive aggression he often lacks. He didnít float on the perimeter, didnít wait for the action to come to him. He took his points from the defense, all while playing with a bit more edge than usual.

Question: Hi Sam, I just have a comment. Ron-Ron (Artest) will not be at the lashing of the Kings on Saturday night (against Houston and former Kings coach) Rick Adelman and the Rockets. That (stinks). I know his kid is sick, but we need him! I see a pattern here, where Ron-Ron shows up when he wants to and thatís not cool! So come Feb. trade deadline or before, trade him, Mike Bibby, Kenny Thomas, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Thanks. - Ron, Woodbridge, CA

Answer: Iím glad you chimed in Ron, because there are surely plenty of people who feel this way. But while Ron will forever battle this kind of skepticism because of his past, the situation with his daughter is very serious. And while he showed all sorts of loyalty by actually returning to help the Kings beat the Rockets, coach Reggie Theus was right when he said before the game that the nature of the situation with his daughter is such that he Artest could disappear for the next four or five games Ė if not longer Ė and be justified. By the way, I have to admit that your line of ďI know his kid is sick, but we need himĒ turned my stomach a bit. Have a little perspective man.

Question: Congrats on Bee article on Nov. 30. Every Kings fan knows the problem that Artest is not a team player. When he is on the floor, the production of Martin, John Salmons or Mike Bibby goes down. He is a super star in his own mind. Reggie (Theus) must convince him to change or demand that he be traded. No other team wants him. Thank you for your objective writing. Ė Bill Newell, Rancho Murietta, CA

Answer: Thanks Bill. Theus is in the process of learning this aspect of Artest, who can score at will so often but who can often fall in love with his own offense to the detriment of the team. Specifically, itís those games when Artest ignores the fact that he just isnít hitting shots and keeps jacking them up. From a basketball fanatics standpoint, itíll be an interesting subplot to watch develop.

Question: How about it Sam? After the injury, trade Mike Bibby for Memphis forward Pau Gasol straight up. The salaries match. The Kings need a low post presence and Gasol has been a 20/10 guy (points and rebounds) in the past. Bibby would be a huge improvement over Damon Stoudamire. Both teams are bad. Gasol is unhappy and wants out. Beno Udrih is the the real deal. Bibby and Gasol are at the same point in their careers. Moving Gasol would make room for rising stud Hakim Warrick and give Stromile Swift more playing time, and it gives the Kings three potential All-Stars (Martin/Artest/Gasol) and Memphis a star to run the offense. Ė Chris Apsley, Lincoln, CA

Answer: I like it Chris. While Gasolís numbers are down this season, he just seems like one of those guys who needs new scenery and heíd be fine. I canít see Memphis doing that deal, though, because Mike Conley is the future at point guard. Theyíre clearly in rebuilding mode, and Bibby is more of a commodity for teams that need another piece to win now.

December 1, 2007
Artest rejoins team; Adelman returns

Ron Artest attended Kings shoot-a-round this morning, an obvious sign that he's probable for tonight's game against Houston.
The Kings small forward left the team on Thursday to be with his young daughter in Indiana, where she continues to deal with a serious medical matter that has already included a kidney-related procedure.
Meanwhile, former Kings coach Rick Adelman conducted his own shoot-a-round with his Houston team as well before his official return tonight. Adelman, who brings with him former Kings assistants Elston Turner and T.R. Dunn, said he was more focused on continuing his winning ways at Arco Arena than getting caught up in his history in the building.
"We need a win, so it doesn't matter if it's here or someplace else," Adelman said inside Arco Arena. "They play well here, so it should be a tough game for us."
Once a Granite Bay resident, he stayed with the team at the downtown Sheraton, and met with some old friends from the Kings organization on Friday evening.
"I was able to see some people last night," Adelman said. "I have a lot of friends, especially with the team, so it was good to see those people." - Sam Amick



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